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Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

533 - 539 Ramona Street

Ramona Street Architectural District

inventory photo 533-539
Inventory photo Photo taken June 22, 2016


The following is from the Historic Buildings Inventory as revised in 1981 and the National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form dated May 21, 1985:

Physical appearance description on the Nomination Form:  This two-story commercial/office building, designed and built in 1938 by Pedro de Lemos, echoes the eclectic Spanish colonial revival style of his earlier building across the street at 520 Ramona. The building is axial both in plan and elevation. The central three-story section is flanked by two-story sections. The central bay's open arched entrance is capped by a wrought iron balcony with a bracketed tile roof which leads to a large interior open courtyard with a continuous gallery at the second floor.

Colorful handmade tiles, quarry tile, decorative paving that includes textural uses of pebbles set in patterns, and delicate wrought iron work adds to the charm of the complex. Small fountains, niches, stair risers, window seats, and mailboxes are consistent in this decorative treatment. Recent (1984) modifications for handicapped access to the central patio area were thoughtfully made and do not spoil the building's integrity. Over the years, there have been minor interior and exterior changes to meet the needs of various tenants.

Significance:  This structure is a superb, inventive office / commercial complex by a local master which is also a major contributor to an important streetscape.

The same care and delight (Lemos) took in handcrafted details is evident here as in his earlier building across the street. Pebbles are embedded in concrete in a decorative manner and colorful handmade tiles adorn the risers of the steps. embellishment of even the drinking fountain and rear mailboxes is not overlooked.
Exploring Palo Alto's Past, AAUW 1977

Continuation of the Nomination Form:  

The property, located at 535-537 Ramona Street, known as the Courtyard Building, within the proposed architectural district was built in 1938. Nonetheless, it has been included in the district application as a building of exceptional importance, integral to the district. Its inclusion within the district is vital to its cohesion and completeness.

The designer, Pedro de Lemos, built the first structure within the district in 1926 at 518-520 Ramona Street and set the design precedent for the later buildings. This last building reaffirms this vision and contributes significantly to the architectural character of the district. It is one of the best buildings withing the Bay Area. The building is currently included in the Santa Clara County Heritage Resource Inventory and thus is included in the California Inventory of Historic Resources.

In the late 1980s when tenants located on the patio were: Pearl's Oyster Bar, Capezio, the Racket Web, Courtyard Antiques I and II, Rogondino and Associates, Creative Energy Associates. Located on the balcony and reached by the stairs in the patio were: Richard Kharibian, Tualatin Vineyards, Russell Leong, and Bowers, Richert and Gararior. There were also offices on the mezzanine that was accessed by the front stairs. Among earlier tenants was The Wooden Spoon.


window detail PAPA historic photo
paving wrought iron support
windows arch
stairs inside patio
entrance map
Location map

This structure was built in 1938 and is a Category 1 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The architect and builder was Pedro de Lemos. The property measures 80 by 100 feet.

Sources: Palo Alto Times 10/29/27, 3/18/38; Ramona Street Historic District file, Historic Resources Board; AAUW, Exploring Palo Alto's Past, 1977


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